Let's be honest: The word "perm" (short for "permanent wave") might just make you recoil and imagine something out of an '80s yearbook. And we don't necessarily blame you: Perms have gotten a bad rap over the last few years (or decades) and—to be perfectly blunt—they haven't felt truly relevant since that scene in Legally Blonde with Chutney (who also, unfortunately, doesn't help the "pro-perm" crowd's case).
But we're here to make the case that the perm is alive and well—and, truthfully, better than ever. And before you roll your eyes and stop reading, just trust us on this one: These aren't your mom's perms.
In fact, the techniques used to achieve perms today are far better for your hair than the harmful chemicals utilized in the '80s, and stylists can totally modify the style to make it feel more modern. Spiral perms, in particular, involve a perm rod that vertically rolls the hair, resulting in a tight, well-defined corkscrew-type curl (with volume and texture that doesn't look like a #TBT photo).
In terms of maintenance, Elle Woods was right when she said you need to wait to wash your perm—48 hours, at least, is usually the best bet. In addition to the no-hair-washing rule, you shouldn't brush or comb your hair during that time either. (You basically want to leave it be—don't disturb it.) Avoid using hair dye, say "no" to styling with heat, and try to keep it extra-moisturized with hair masks and leave-in conditioner as often as possible.
Still with us? We know that might sound like a lot, but a perm will probably cut your hair-routine time in half—just let it air dry every day for perfect, covetable curls.
Check out 22 modern spiral perms—that don't look like '80s throwback pics—below.
A blonde, shaggy spiral perm gives major bedhead vibes—in the best way possible.
Pair your perm with shaggy bangs and loose layers for '70s-chic perfection. (And of course, this copper hue is next-level cool, too.)
No, you won't get Shirley Temple ringlets from a spiral perm (unless that's what you're going for). Ask for a curly, wavy texture that's totally edgy instead.
The best way to get the bounciness your curls deserve is to—hear us out—chop off the length that could potentially be weighing them down. This short, lightweight bob is just the ticket to curls that look alive.
Keep the Length
Spiral perms work with any hair length, as long as you have enough hair to work with (AKA, wrap onto perm rods). These waist-length spirals prove a perm looks fresh on ultra-long hair, too.
Make a major statement with blunt curly bangs to complement long, luscious permed locks.
After getting a perm, you may notice styling suddenly becomes a breeze. We love this simple, effortless look, adorned with just a barrette.
You can't go wrong with piecey, tousled waves—and you'd never guess these ones are the work of an on-point spiral perm.
Short & Blunt
Short, blunt bobs always make a statement—you can find our faves here—but the spiral perm on this 'do makes it extra special and striking.
Lots of Layers
How cute is this layered perm? With face-framing pieces and curls throughout, this is the kind of hairstyle that'll have you permanently (get it?) in a good mood.
Get the tousled beach-wave vibe with a relaxed spiral perm. How soft, touchable, and pretty are these waves?
No, this isn't exactly the "scrunched" look you wore in middle school—but this is the cooler, grown-up version, with face-framing curls.
Long & Luxe
Embrace the larger-than-life volume a spiral perm gives you by letting your curls run wild. We love this long, loose, and luxurious-looking 'do.
Again, a spiral perm doesn't have to look reminiscent of decades past. Here, the curls are natural-looking, touchable, and modern.
No, permed curls don't have to be crunchy—see how totally soft, silky, and touchable this spiral perm turned out.
A shag is the ultimate cool-girl cut as far as we're concerned—and this curly iteration is no different. With lots of layers and face-framing tendrils, this bouncy bob was brought to life by a spiral perm.
BRB—we're suddenly feeling edgy, artistic, and bold. This spiral perm style combines blunt bangs with a brushed-out texture and it's giving us major hair envy.
Rather than tight, the curls on this spiral-perm 'do are loose, soft, and tousled. (With this style, you can trick people into thinking you did your hair every morning when you really just let it air dry.)
Long & Lush
The front tendril here makes this 'do—but generally speaking, these long, lush curls feel ultra-romantic.
Lightweight & Fresh
A fresh, lightweight bob with a wavy texture and face-framing bangs? Say no more.
You can't go wrong with bouncy spirals and soft texture.
Barreto TM, Weffort F, Frattini SC, Martins Pinto G, Dos Santos Damasco P, Melo DF. Permanent hair wavings: what dermatologists should know?. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021;20(4):1204-1207. doi:10.1111/jocd.13687